Good new is old forgotten by someone in a dark corner
Charles Rattray once wrote in his book “Disquisition for the Connoisseur”: “Tobacco is a vegetable that lives and breathes. It is unlikely that he will get better from being placed in a prison without access to air. " That is, until relatively recently, people believed that it is better to consume tobacco fresh, that, like any plant, long-term storage is not good for it. But a little later, the same Charles Rattray noted that "tobacco changes during storage and the last one or two pipes from a pound of tobacco have a better taste." Ironically, the very "tobacco prisons" of Rattrai, which from his first words did not make sense to store, today are one of the most popular, desired and rare tobacco blends. Thirty years ago, people who thought about tobacco aging were considered eccentric.
New life of tobacco leaf
To understand what constitutes the process of tobacco aging, let us turn to what lies at its basis. First of all, this is the fermentation of tobacco - a process that is the opposite of plant life and growth. This is fermentation, and if it is even simpler - directed (or controlled) decay. Doesn't sound very attractive, right? But do not be afraid, because the best wines in the world are obtained under the influence of similar processes. Just as wine acquires new flavors after fermentation, so the taste of tobacco changes. But just as the taste of wine is directly dependent on the grape variety, changes in the taste and aroma of tobacco depend on the variety of tobacco leaf.
There are two types of fermentation in the aging process of tobacco - aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic fermentation (with access to oxygen) takes place in "American-style" cans - these cans are not vacuum sealed and contain a certain amount of air inside them, which will allow bacteria to do their magic.
Tobacco extract - Where to start?
To begin with, a good action is to develop a habit: when you smoke tobacco and understand that you like this tobacco, and you do not mind returning to it in the future, buy at least a couple more cans in reserve. Write the date of purchase of the tobacco on the bottom of the can and put it in a dark, dry place - this is your exchange fund. The collection of tobacco will be replenished according to your preferences in the choice of tobacco. The more cans you can put aside, the faster it (your fund) will grow. If you take a can of aged tobacco from the exchange fund, then put a new one in its place, not forgetting to indicate the date of purchase.
It makes sense to apply the same approach to new mixtures: if you decide to take something for a sample, then take more than one can. You try tobacco from one, the rest - in reserve.
Made by hand
If you are going to age loose tobacco or plan to transfer tobacco from vacuum-packed cans for aging, then containers with a screw top would be a good solution. Canned vegetables are sold in such cans, but the method of preserving tobacco will, of course, differ somewhat from canning cucumbers. The jar must be clean and before packing it must be 3/4 filled with tobacco, the air in the remaining space will ensure the aging process. Without oxygen, the biochemical processes in tobacco stop. But oxygen is not the only condition, and the tobacco mixture must maintain its moisture content throughout the entire aging period, which means that we should carefully monitor the quality of the tobacco "rolling". When canning cucumbers, jars are placed in boiling water, but for us this is an unacceptable option - such a temperature level can greatly change tobacco, and these modifications are not always positive. To preserve tobacco, the temperature of the hot water in the tap is sufficient.
When to wait for the harvest?
Within a year, changes in tobacco will become noticeable. Aging makes the greatest leaps in the storage period from 24 to 36 months - this is an area that is usually the interests of most experimenters in the field of aging tobacco blends. Some pipe smokers set a time limit of 5 years, and sometimes it really makes sense, but in most cases all processes in tobacco slow down greatly after three years, and the difference in taste of three-, five- and ten-year-old tobacco can only be determined when sufficient experience.
It is worth remembering that aging does not guarantee that we will end up with "tobacco-gold". And it does not even guarantee that it will noticeably improve the taste properties of the tobacco mixture.
We should also pay attention to the fact that many pipe smokers use heat to accelerate the aging process of tobacco. They leave cans on the dashboard of a car in sunny weather, during the heating season they lay out containers on heating batteries and so on. Of course, under such an influence, the tobacco changes up to the caramelization of sugar, but such processing has little in common with aging. If the results of long-term aging could be achieved by simple heat treatment of tobacco, would this technology not be used everywhere? So, if we want to get exactly aged tobacco, then we should be patient.